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Faking It

What did we do before PhotoShop? How pre-digital images were altered

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Subjects & Skills

Arts, Creativity, Critical Thinking

Great for

Evaluating Media

Price: Free
Platforms: iPad

Pros: Quizzes focus on how and why photographs are manipulated; explanations are both detailed and surprising.

Cons: Just 16 images are included, limiting the ways to explore and extend the material.

Bottom Line: Faking It is a fascinating glimpse into how people altered photographs before the digital age, but it's likely to leave users wanting more.

Teachers might use Faking It in an art classroom when discussing different ways to alter an image. History or ELA teachers might use the app in a lesson that discusses rhetoric and narrative and the way changing an image can change a story and potentially change the way we remember an historical event. Teachers might have kids experiment with making their own altered images with digital or non-digital tools and then present the images to their classmates in a format similar to the Faking It quizzes. Kids might also make a vocabulary list or glossary of the methods presented in the explanatory text.

Editor's Note: Faking It is no longer available to download.

Faking It is a reference and quiz app developed in 2012 as a companion piece to a Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibit that explored the manipulation of photos before the digital age. The app includes a gallery of 16 altered photos on a range of subjects, from a zeppelin docked at the Empire State Building to Elvis with a drawn-on buzz cut. Users can also navigate the images at random through a 10-question quiz. Each image in the quiz features two questions: How was this image manipulated, and why would someone have manipulated it?

Both the quiz and the gallery offer extensive information about each photograph, including before-and-after images, explanatory text about the subject, and a detailed description of the manipulation techniques used to produce the final image. Images with more complex backstories include brief animations demonstrating their production. 

The quiz questions offer fascinating teachable moments: In a world in which most kids’ interaction with photos is literally through the lens their devices’ apps provide, it’s exciting to focus on how people without such tools used their own ingenuity to tell a visual story. These images delve into the power of changing images to tell a particular story, providing opportunities for a teacher to add context and extend the images' lessons into a broader context.

The built-in animations and explanatory text are rich in detail, but it’s clear these images represent only a small part of a much larger, more detailed gallery experience. The app would work better if there were another way to navigate that information -- for example, a dedicated glossary of the art terms and techniques that accompany each image. As it is, it’s possible for kids to click through the quiz or navigate the gallery without learning much from these visual resources.

Learning Rating

Overall Rating

Uncanny images provoke fascinating questions, and explanatory text and animations offer surprising answers.


Valuable educational content is embedded within the quizzes and images, but users have to drill down to find them or risk missing them altogether.


Simple navigation and multiple paths through the images make for a straightforward, but limited, experience.

Common Sense reviewer

Community Rating

Intro to pre Photoshop photography processes

This is a great little app for Photography and/or Digital arts teachers. It delves into how photographs were manipulated before the introduction of Photoshop. Most students do not have exposure to traditional photography methods anymore and this is a good introduction in a photography / digital arts classroom at how 'trick photography' was done.

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